Well, we had another week with some cold days and rain, but the long range forecast for the weekend and early next week is pretty good.  Unfortunately, there is an early forecast of a strong low that might be off the Carolinas late next week.  However, as we know all too well, forecasts are constantly changing, so check the latest forecast and the actual conditions before heading out.

Water temperature is still a question.  Several days next week are forecast to be bright sunny and approach 80, so that should help warm the water.  I realize today is only May 1, but I'm ready for the ocean water to reach 70 so kings and cobia will move in around the piers and just off the beaches. 

This was a week for offshore fishing if you could get there.  Dolphin were the stars of offshore trolling and they were caught from Calabash to Hatteras.  Offshore fish boxes also included wahoo, blackfin tuna and even a few yellowfin tuna.  There were a few reports of billfish releases too.  offshore fishing was good! 

Bottom fish and king mackerel are biting well a little inshore of the Gulf Stream.  These are mostly smaller kings, but when you find a school, they are hungry and biting.  Someone said it seemed like just about every rock, wreck or ledge from 80 feet out was holding black sea bass, beeliners, triggerfish, grouper, grunts and porgys.  Grouper season opens today (May 1) so you can invite a limit home to be the guest of honor at your deck grilling party. 

There are schools of Atlantic bonito and false albacore along southern and central N.C.  Both of these fish are fun to catch and Atlantic bonito are good to eat.  Some folks even serve them as sashimi and sushi.  It would be in your best interest to learn to tell the difference.  If you're releasing all of them, you're letting some good eats swim off. 

Last week a bunch of small kings mixed with the fat alberts and bonito off Wrightsville Beach.  The slug of warm water that was holding them has dissipated, but there have been reports of a few of them showing up in lots of places and mixed with alberts, bonito and Spanish mackerel.  Spanish mackerel are arriving to the south and might just make it to the middle of the state as the water warms this week, so you need to be aware of them.  They have been hitting the same small spoons and jigs as the alberts, bonito, Spanish and bluefish. 

Don't mistake small kings for large Spanish.  Some may be large Spanish, but some are kings and a few are shorter than the 24 inch minimum.  Learn to tell the difference and the easiest way is to lift the leading edge of the forward dorsal fin.  If there is a black spot, it is a Spanish and if it is all gray, it is a king.

The regulations on kings only allow 3 a day and they have to be a minimum of 24 inches long fork length (tip of nose to the middle of the fork in their tail), while the minimum for Spanish macks is 12 inches fork length and you can keep 15 each.  If you confuse small kings for large Spanish, it is easy to get afoul of the regulations in size and number.  Learn the difference because not knowing isn't an excuse and it's an expensive ticket.

Fishermen are catching bluefish along most of the N.C. Coast.  There haven't been any huge blues caught yet, but there were 2 to 4 pounders at Cape Lookout this week.  Sometimes they boil up on a school of bait and can be cast to, like alberts and bonito.  Many are being caught incidental to trolling for  Spanish, fat alberts and bonito.  Small spoons and jigs will get their attention. 

There are a few flounder being caught on the artificial reefs, plus lots of black sea bass (mostly shorts) and some gray trout, dogfish and more.

The wind and rain rolling up the coast haven't been friendly to fishermen on the piers, but there have been  some good catches.  Bluefish, sea mullet and puffers are all biting well, plus there are pompano, black drum, and a few flounder, even though many are shorts.  The bluefish have gotten thick enough fishermen are catching them well with Got-Chas and Spanish macks have been caught from the southern piers up to Topsail. 

With blues and Spanish arriving, the next big question is when will kings and cobia start biting at the piers?  Both of these fish like to eat bluefish and bluefish are gathering pretty well.  My guess is a couple of weeks, but if the sunshine next week warms the water a lot, they could be early...

Surf fishing isn't wide open good, but some days have been good and on others there are enough catches to be optimistic.  red drum, black drum, sea mullet, blowfish, flounder and more are being caught in the surf

Sea mullet and gray trout are biting in the Morehead City Turning Basin and sea mullet are biting in the lower Cape Fear River between Southport and Bald Head Island.  This is a simple fishery, just vertically jig speck rigs or double-drop bottom rigs.  The best bait has been small pieces of the freshest shrimp possible, but the fish will also hit bloodworms and Fishbites synthetic bloodworms, just not often to quite the same intensity.

Speckled trout, red drum, black drum and flounder are biting in the creeks, bays and marshes off the Intracoastal Waterway and the coastal rivers.  Several fishermen said they were pleasantly surprised to have already seen a good number of keeper flounder and this is only the first of May. 

Black drum aren't typically targeted, but are usually caught mixed with red drum and speckled trout.  There have been some good catches of black drum this spring and around docks and oyster rocks have been the hottest places.  Red drum tend to feed shallower than trout, but black drum may be mixed with both.  In the creeks and bays, flounder tend to  be in areas with more red drum, but they may move deeper along the edges of channels. 

Speckled trout, red drum, black drum and flounder all like live baits and right now mud minnows are the easiest live bait to find.  This is true whether you are trying to trap, cast net or buy them.  There are some small pogies in some of the creeks and basins and they make good baits also.  Specks and drum will readily hit live baits suspended under a float or fished on the bottom using a Carolina rig.  Flounder occasionally will rise off the bottom to eat, but prefer baits fished on the bottom.  Both drum will also eat pieces of shrimp or fresh cut mullet fished on the bottom.

Speckled trout, red drum and flounder will readily hit lures fished along or just off the bottom.  More flounder are caught on soft baits, but they will hit hard baits, spinnerbaits and spoons.  With red drum and trout, the mixture is pretty much an even split, but with more fishermen using soft baits.  Trout and red drum are also beginning to hit topwater lures and this action should continue to improve with the water warming and a little more bait showing. 

Last weekend was the WAIT (Women Anglers in Training) 2015 and 50 smiling ladies from across the state arrived at the Oak Island Recreation Center Saturday morning for the classroom part of the 11th year of this excellent program.  This is a new attendance high for this event, which is my favorite of the year.  I do a lot of fishing schools and seminars, but the WAIT is special and I always look forward to it.  Sure it's nice to be the center of attention for 50 ladies, but they come seeking information about fishing and don't have any preconceived notions or bad habits, so it's really fun to work with them.  Also, every year one of them asks a question from a point of view I have never considered before and brings me back to when I was tagging along with my dad and uncles and trying to learn. 

The WAIT is the idea of Rebecca Squires, Oak Island Parks and Recreation Director.  The ladies spend the first day in classroom situations at the Oak Island Recreation Center and learn everything from where's and why's of fishing to how to tie a few knots, how to cast a fly rod, how to throw cast nets and even how to fillet fish.  Other folks who came to help this year were Capt. Amanda King of Second Wind Charters in Carolina Beach, Capt. Mike Brazil of Affordable Charters in Oak Island, Capt. Marty Wright of Wright of Passage Charters in Oak Island, and Jim White of the Cape Fear Flyfishing Club.  Capt. Wally Trayah of Oak Island Fishing Charters in Oak Island joined the group for fishing on Sunday. 

I fished with a group of ladies on Oak Island Pier on Sunday and I think everyone finally caught something and several of them caught a lot.  Whiting, croakers, bluefish and sand perch were the primary catches, but two of the ladies caught small cod (which were very out of place).  Those fishing on boats caught Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, red drum, black drum and trout.  Nothing was particularly large, but every catch was huge.  I hope the ladies learned a lot and had as much fun as I had being with them.

It's Not Over 'Till It's Over! 
Striper season along much of the Carolina Coastal Plain ended at midnight on Thursday (March 30).  You can still fish catch and release, but all must be released.  However, fishery managers for the Roanoke River Striper Management Area have added this weekend to the days fishermen can keep stripers there.  Because of inclement weather during the open striper season, the catch is below the allowed level and fishery managers have added May 1 through 3 to the season.  If you didn't make the trip while the season was open earlier, you've got a few more days if you can plan and go quickly.

The limit in the Roanoke River Management Area is 2 fish per person per day, with a minimum size of 18 inches and a slot of 22 to 27 inches that all fish must be released.  Only one of an anglers two fish may exceed 27 inches.  The Roanoke River Management Area extends from the Roanoke Rapids Lake Dam at Roanoke Rapids downstream to the mouth of the river at the Albemarle Sound.  The Roanoke River Management Area also includes the Cashie, Eastmost and Middle Rivers.  For more information on striper and other regulations, visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf.

Military Appreciation Day
Military Appreciation Day (MAD) 10 is scheduled for May 30 in Morehead City.  MAD is a N.C. based organization that focuses on taking active duty military personnel fishing as a way of thanking them for their service to our country.  This is the 10th year of MAD events and this year there are MAD events planned for Morehead City and Southport in N.C., Charleston, S.C., Hampton, Virginia and Lewes, Delaware.  The Morehead City MAD is the original MAD event and remains the largest.  Military families are also invited to participate in numerous on-shore activities throughout the day. 

Registration for MAD 10 is open for volunteers and troops.  Volunteers are needed for all aspects of the event, from taking troops fishing, helping with the many land-based activities and even cleaning fish.  If you can spare a day, or even a few hours, it will be appreciated by the organizers and really appreciated by the service men and women and their families.  Helping at a MAD event is something special and rewarding.  I take some troops fishing and always feel like I have as much or more fun than they do.  Anyone who would like to help can visit www.militaryappreciationday.org  and register. 

Wildlife Resources Commission Seeks Members for NC Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking nominations for two seats on its Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee; a board of North Carolina citizens that provides advice to the Commission on nongame wildlife conservation issues across the state.  One opening is for an Expert Affiliate Seat and the other is for an At-Large Affiliate Seat.  Nominations will be accepted through June 26 and the Wildlife Resources Commission will appoint committee members at its July 9 meeting in Raleigh. 

Nominees for the Expert Affiliate Seat should have extensive biological, regional, academic, scientific and/or habitat expertise and experience in matters dealing with nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.  Nominees for the At-Large Affiliate Seat should be qualified individuals from land trusts serving North Carolina, federal natural resource agencies other than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, non-governmental conservation organizations, industries with operations and/or management that have landscape-scale effects on wildlife, or other organizations that provide a stakeholder voice in wildlife resource conservation.  Individuals should have a comprehensive knowledge of nongame wildlife conservation in North Carolina.

To nominate an individual for the Non-Game Wildlife Advisory Committee, submit a nomination form with information regarding affiliation and expertise, a résumé, if available, and a cover letter.  The nomination form can be downloaded from the Commission's website, www.ncwildlife.org, by clicking on the "Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee" icon on the home page.  Electronic submissions are preferred, but hard copies may be mailed to the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee, Attn: Shauna Glover, Division of Inland Fisheries, MSC 1721, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1721. Submit electronic nominations to shauna.glover@ncwildlife.org.   For more information about the committee or the nomination process, e-mail Glover or call her at (919) 707-0064.

Information and Comment Requests/Pending Legislation and Regulations
NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on proposed Amendments 20 and 36 for the Fishery Management Plan for the Snapper Grouper Fishery of the South Atlantic Region.  Amendment 20 would revise the snowy grouper annual catch limits, commercial trip limit, and recreational fishing season.  Amendment 36 includes Special Management Zones (SMZs) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Southeast Region, in collaboration with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC), intends to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to describe and analyze a range of alternatives for management actions to be included in Amendment 36.  Amendment 36 will consider alternatives to implement SMZs.

Comments on both amendments must be submitted by May 8.  The proposed amendments can be found at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov or http://www.safmc.net.  Comments for Amendment 20 may be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0003, or by mail to Nikhil Mehta - NOAA Fisheries - Southeast Regional Office - Sustainable Fisheries Division - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.  Comments for Amendment 36 may be submitted via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2015-0050, or by mail to Rick DeVictor - NMFS Southeast Regional Office - 263 13th Avenue South - St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a proposal to revise the guidelines for National Standard 1, 3 and 7 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The National Standard guidelines assist the eight regional fishery management councils and NOAA Fisheries in developing effective fishery management plans.

“The proposed revisions clarify and streamline the National Standard guidelines, address concerns raised by partners and stakeholders during the implementation of annual catch limits and accountability measures, and provide flexibility to address fishery management issues,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “The proposed revisions, if implemented, will result in better-managed and more sustainable fisheries.”

The National Standard 1 guidelines provide guidance on preventing overfishing while achieving the optimum yield (the amount of fish which will provide the greatest overall benefit to the Nation, particularly with respect to food production and recreational opportunities) from each U.S. fishery.  The National Standard 3 guidelines provide guidance on managing a stock as a unit throughout its range, and the National Standard 7 guidelines address minimizing costs and avoid duplication in fisheries management.

The proposed revisions do not establish new requirements or require councils to revise their current fishery management plans. Rather, they offer additional clarity and potential flexibility in meeting current Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandates.

The proposed revisions include:

● Increasing flexibility in setting timelines for rebuilding programs;
● Providing flexibility for better managing data-limited stocks;
● Clarifying guidance on which stocks require conservation and management;
● Enhancing current efforts by the councils to apply ecosystem approaches to management;
● Providing for more stable fisheries through guidance on multiyear overfishing determinations, phasing in results of new stock assessments and the carryover of the unused portion of annual catch limits to subsequent years;
● Adding a definition for “depleted stocks” to recognize non-fishing-related impacts to fish stocks, and;
●  Recommending the councils re-evaluate the objectives of fishery management plans, to ensure they reflect the changing needs of the fishery, including allocation of fishery resources.

Public comments on the proposed rule are due June 30, 2015.  To learn more and read the proposed rule as well as to submit comments, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/laws_policies/national_standards/ns1_revisions.html.  

Fisheries Meetings
May 4:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Oyster and Hard Clam Fishery Management Plan Advisory Committee, 6:00 P.M., DENR Regional Office in Washington, Contact Tina Moore at 252-808-8082 or Tina.Moore@ncdenr.gov or Stephen Taylor at 910-796-7289 or Stephen.Taylor@ncdenr.gov.

May 7:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Steering Committee, 10:00 A.M., DENR Regional Office, Washington. For more information, contact Jimmy Johnson at 252-948-3952 or jimmy.johnson@ncdenr.gov.    

May 20 to 22:  N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission Business Meeting, May 20-22, Doubletree by Hilton Riverfront, New Bern.  Public comment sessions on the evening of May 20 and morning of May 21.  For more information and an agenda visit http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/dmf.

Tournaments, Seminars, Boat/Fishing/Outdoor Shows, and Other Events
April 18 to June 14:  Chasin' Tails Cobia Challenge, Chasin' Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, www.chasintailsoutdoors.com.  

May 1 to 3:  Topsail Surf and Pier Fishing Challenge, East Coast Sports, Surf City, www.fishermanspoast.com.

May 2:  Kayak Fishing Seminar, Bill Smith Park, Oak Island Parks and Recreation Department, Oak Island, www.oakislandnc.com/Departments/Parks-Recreation.aspx.

May 2:  Reelin for Research, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.reelinforresearch.org.

May 2 and 3:  Rebel Pier King Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.

May 8 to 16:  Far Out Shoot Out, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.oifc.com.

May 12:  Craven County Recreation and Parks Kayak Fishing Seminar, New Bern, https://cravencounty.recdesk.com.

May 12 to 16:  Hatteras Village Offshore Open, Hatteras Harbor Marina, Hatteras, www.hvoo.org.  

May 15 to 17:  BOW (ladies-only) Fly-Fishing Weekend, PCWE & Davidson River Campground, Transylvania County, www.ncwildlife.org.

May 15 to 17:  Crystal Coast Surf Fishing Challenge, Reel Outdoors, Emerald Isle, www.fishermanspost.com.  

May 16:  Ride the Tide, Oak Island Parks and Recreation, Oak Island, www.oakislandnc.com/Departments/Parks-Recreation.aspx.

May 16:  Fisherman's Swap Meet to Benefit Military Appreciation Day, Grand Slam Yacht and Boat Sales, Morehead City, www.militaryappreciationday.org.

May 16:  CCA NC Cobia Challenge, Boathouse Marina, Beaufort, www.ccanc.org.

May 16 and 17:  Crystal Coast Boat Show, Morehead City Waterfront, Morehead City, www.crystalcoastboatshow.com

May 16 and 17:  Ladies Pier King Tournament, Ocean Crest Pier, Oak Island, www.oceancrestpiernc.com.

May 17-23:  Safe Boating Week  (N.C. events begin on May 16), www.ncwildlife.org.

May 21 to 24:  Swansboro Rotary Memorial Day Bluewater Tournament, Rotary Civic Center, Swansboro, www.swansbororotary.com.

May 22:  Cape Lookout Flyfishers, Monthly meeting, Cox Family Restaurant, Morehead City, www.capelookoutflyfishers.com.  

May 27 to 30:  Cape Fear Blue Marlin Tournament, Wrightsville Beach Marina, Wrightsville Beach, www.capefearbluemarlintournament.com.

May 29 to 30:  Ocean Isle Inshore Challenge, Ocean Isle Fishing Center, Ocean Isle, www.fishermanspost.com.

May 30:  Military Appreciation Day, Morehead City Downtown Parks, Morehead City, www.militaryappreciationday.org.

May 30 and 31:  Oak Island Open Pier Fishing Tournament, Oak Island and Ocean Crest Piers, Multiple species, www.oakislandnc.com.     

Good Fishing
Capt. Jerry Dilsaver


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